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NEW: Nikon D90, D3, D300 and D200 ISO 3,200 Comparison 18 September 2008
NEW: Nikon D90, D3, D300 and D200 Sharpness Comparison 18 September 2008
January 2008: The D200 has been superceded by the far superior D300, even though you certainly buy all the new D200s you want. This review is now an historical artifact, mostly written back in 2005. 2005 is ancient history in digital camera years.
NEW: DSLR High ISO Shoot-Out 03 October 2007
NEW: Nikon D200 Drop Test 13 June 2007
Nikon D200 vs. Canon 5D 06 January 2007
LCD Camera Monitor Comparisons, featuring the D200.
Memory Card and Download Speed Tests, featuring the D200.
How to hack a GPS to it, cheap.
Link to Nikon's version of my D200 Owners' Manual
More Nikon Reviews
My D200 is the best digital camera I've ever owned. I've made over 28,000 shots on it as of January 2007.
Boring lab tests can't tell you that my D200 gives me more great images with less work. My D70 and D40 can give similar results (resolution isn't related to image quality), but I have to twiddle the adjustments like white balance and exposure compensation more.
My D200's colors are fabulous, and my work is all about color.
My D200 has much better color interpretation than any other digital camera. It sees color the way I do, and doesn't get too blue in shade. I used to run all my other digital cameras at WB Auto -3 and use a glass 81A (A2) warming filter all the time. My D200 gives me the results I want at Auto WB (+/- 0) and no glass warming filter required. I love this!
Auto WB works better than on any other DSLR I've used. I can shoot in shade, daylight or fluorescent and it looks right. My other digital cameras are always too blue in the shade and too green under fluorescent in Auto WB. I have to twiddle WB manually on those cameras. My D200's Auto WB actually works so I can concentrate on the image. AWB under tungsten still looks orange in dim light, but looks perfect in brighter light. Manual tungsten settings look too orange, just as they do on other cameras. On my D200 I use the manual white card or Kelvin adjustments (try 2,500 K) to get great natural results under home interior tungsten lighting.
Exposure is better on my D200 than anything else I've ever used. I spend much less time getting to the correct exposure in difficult situations. The D200 refuses to blow out my reds, which are a problem on most digital cameras in tricky situations.
The D200's LCD is big, bright, sharp, clear and colorful. It also uses a lot of electricity to make it look so delicious at every angle. I love looking at it because it looks so good.
Therefore battery life is only a few hundred shots on a charge. Nikon's ads claim 1,800. Baloney. It's a lot worse than my D70.
I bought a spare battery and can go through two in a day of shooting. I'd rather have the great screen and bring a spare battery. They charge faster than Nikon claims, too, in only 105 minutes from zero charge.
If I just shoot and don't use the LCD I can get over 1,000 shots. Everyone uses the LCD, and when I do I can get as few as 250 shots on a charge! If those are time exposures I'll get even fewer.
Your battery life has little to do with the actual number of shots. It has everything to do with how long you use the big, bright, sharp and colorful LCD to check your work, how long the shutter is open, how much data is written for your choice of file types and how long the meter is on while we twiddle. This twiddling is the creative process.
Even with the LCD off you'll suck the battery dry quickly with long exposures. My D200 sucks one entire battery dry in a single 80 minute exposure. My D70 never ran the battery down, no matter how much I used its puny LCD.
I don't mind the D200's battery life. It's a lot better than the primitive but state of-the-art at the time D1H I bought less then three years ago for $4,000. The short battery life suggests the D200 has the electronics of today's $5,000 D2X, but a smaller battery with the same capacity of the D70s. I'd rather have a smaller battery and smaller camera than the huge battery and body of the D2X.
Nikon seems deceptive in advertising 1,800 shots. They didn't specify the test conditions in the ads on whose basis I made my purchase. Only after I bought my D200 was I able to read these test conditions in the manual. They're a travesty of what a real photographer would do. Those conditions are only for a 1/250 sec exposure, a Basic medium-resolution JPG file and not using the LCD except for 5 seconds after each 6 shots. I often look at the LCD for 10 - 20 seconds after every shot. Nikon also specifies that you'll only get 340 shots when using the flash at full power for half the shots, and then that's not using the LCD at all!
I love my D200, but won't complain if lawyers bring a class action against Nikon to get us free spare batteries. Actually, to get 1,800 shots I'd need about three spares since I average about 450 shots per charge if I go easy looking at the LCD. I don't mind the actual battery life, but do mind that Nikon advertised a deceptive figure.
HOW DID I GET MINE BACK IN DECEMBER 2005?
Simple: I ordered it the day it was announced, November 1st, 2005. I paid full price and had to wait almost two months. I suggested you all do the same right here on this page on November 1st as well.
Just like any hot new digital camera, they are so popular at first that there are usually waiting lists. Nikon's not slow - they just have a zillion more orders than they can make cameras. Your store can't really tell you when to expect your order, since the store is waiting for Nikon to get the cameras to them.
No one could buy the previous D100 from stock for 6 - 12 months after it was introduced in 2002. It was on waiting lists and backorder for about a year.
If you're considering the D200 I'd suggest you order one right now, since if you don't like it you can just send it back if you order online as I do. Also when yours shows up probably could resell it to some who can't wait, at a profit, if you don't like it! Just like when the D100 and D70 came out, it will be a while before you can just walk into a store and buy one. The lists are filling up and waiting times are going to get worse before they get better. I'm glad I ordered mine the day it came out.
Some places have D200/18-70 kits in stock (Adorama has them here), but not the D200 body only. Darn. I suggest everyone get the 18-200VR I use, or the cheapest 18-55 lens which I also prefer to the 18-70. If I had a job to shoot and the 18-70 kit was my only option I'd go for it, be glad that I got my camera in my hot little hands, and sell the 18-70 lens later. If you're in a rush and like me you'll be so happy with the D200 that it won't matter how you had to get it. These things go obsolete so fast that waiting a few extra months isn't helping you.
10.2 Megapixels, 5.1 FPS (measured), unusually high quality huge 2.5" LCD, 11 area AF, rubberized magnesium weather-sealed body, $1,699.95 US.
Announced 01 November, 2005. I ordered mine that very first day and I'm glad I did. Mine arrived December 19th 2005 and I LOVE it!
I'm adding to these pages every day. Eventually I will reorganize them all to make more sense when I've finished writing them. If you're a daily visitor you may want to skip straight to the performance pages which is where most of the updates happen. My apologies for not being able to let you know what changes every five minutes, but not doing that while these pages are being written lets me spend that time adding more important information instead.
Here's a shot from the other day right out of the camera, except for resizing. The camera was set to auto everything except Saturation was set to + and Color Mode set to III (saturated) for the vivid colors I love. This sort of shot usually takes a lot of twiddling with WB and exposure on my other cameras to get this look.
Laguna Beach, California, 07 January 2006.
WHO PAYS FOR ALL THIS?
Nikon doesn't give me anything. I went out and ordered my own with my own money. I say I like it because I like it, not because I get paid anything to say it. I don't care if you get a D200 or a Canon 5D or a Zenit or whatever. I'm just a guy who loves to take pictures and help everyone else enjoy it, too.
DIGITAL KEEPS GETTING BETTER
As I keep telling everyone, digital is so new that everything gets much better every year, so when Nikon or Canon introduce a new digital model today and for the next few years you can rest assured that it's worlds better than what it replaces. That's why with Nikon's and Canon's track record I just order the new gear as it comes out.
BACK TO THE D200
The D200 is Nikon's latest DSLR. It's a semi-pro camera positioned between the hugely popular D70s and the full-time professional D2X. It has absolutely nothing to do with the 3-1/2 year old D100. The D200 is similar in size to the D70s and a little heavier. It's very similar in size and weight to the F100 and similar in feel and features to the D2X and adds a built-in flash.
What strikes me as so pleasant is that last year I bought my D70 for about $1,000 when it was first released. The D70 is a nice plastic camera and I love it. A year and a half later for only about $700 more you can get the D200, which in addition to being almost twice as fast and almost twice the pixel count, the D200 is a solid professional brick of a camera.
I expect that this will be the most popular camera used by professional photographers due to its light weight, low cost, high speed and tough magnesium body. In my opinion it obsoletes the D2X, since it does 90% of what the D2X does without the weight and expense. I've never even wanted a D2X; it's too darn heavy.
Nikon D200 with LCD cover removed.
WHY DID I UPGRADE IF I LOVE MY D70 SO MUCH?
People rightfully ask why I bought a D200 if I love my D70 so much.
I use my cameras so much and get so much out of them that the dollar cost is negligible. Even small improvements in ease of use are worth money to me. I'm upgrading because I can, and I'm one of the few people who appreciate some new things like YRGB histograms and the four setting banks. Most people are still trying to understand white balance and exposure, and this great majority of people will be as elated with a D70s or D50 as I was when I got mine. If you're happy with your existing D50/D70/D70s then there's no need to upgrade.
Picture quality is 99% the same. My D200 just makes it faster and easier for me to get it.
For my uses the D200 is ideal: I want the best quality without regard to price in the smallest and most convenient package with built-in flash. The D2X is way too big and has no flash at all. For most normal people (not full-time professional photographers) the D70, D70s and D50 are still my top suggestions, since most people won't use the few extra features I find important.
The resolution difference isn't important. What is important is that the D200 offers numerous little improvements in convenience, speed and ease of use, like more buttons dedicated to individual functions. For instance, the Three Kings, which serious photographers reset almost shot-to-shot, QUAL, WB and ISO, now have dedicated new buttons on top (see photo below) instead of being shared with playback buttons on the back as they are on the D70s. New from the D70 is that the ISO shows all the time in the finder. Regardless of how much memory I have I still turn the resolution down for junk shots and then back up for serious things, since I shoot so much that all the junk adds up if shot at JPG FINE.
Nikon D200 top surface. Three Kings (QUAL, WB, ISO) on the left.
Having used both pro and amateur cameras for many decades, the professional élan with which the D200 dispatches its duties is something I appreciate compared to the D70s. It just feels better. These finesse issues never come across on paper, but are obvious when you pick up the camera and start working. The D70s is lighter, but less tough. I'm banking that the added convenience and speed of the D200 will more than make up for the extra weight. I use my Casio EX-Z750 pocket camera for casual travel anyway, not my D70. If you follow my links to my D200 pages you'll also see my page comparing the D200 to the D70s and other Nikons later on.
SHOULD YOU UPGRADE?
The quality of your photos will be the same from the Nikon D200 as any other DSLR. It's you, not the camera, who makes the pictures. I have a page here about that. If you're dissatisfied with your photos then your money is better spent on becoming a better photographer or traveling to exotic locales than on more cameras. I've seen 3 x 4 foot prints made from a D50 and they look great. If you can't get sharp results with what you have, then a new camera probably won't fix it. The technical image quality differences are so minute among cameras that only the very top virtuoso photographers are good enough to discern the differences in real photography of anything other than test charts. Of course people trying to sell you cameras will say otherwise, and if you have the money then by all means get the best.
The biggest quality difference will be if your current camera is too slow or clumsy and makes you miss photos entirely. The speed of the D200 will fix that.
NEXT: D200 SPECIFICATIONS